It was always about belonging.
We were four. It was 1989. Our house in upstate New York was for sale because we were moving to Europe. Our son Jim was four, our daughter Kate was one and a half. After a few days in France, Jim remembered that he had left an important toy truck behind in our house. We told him no, that the house was empty, but he was inconsolable for a time, so we sat him down, filled him in, and said that we lived here now. And for months afterwards, whenever anyone asked him where he was from, he would name the village where we had rented that first French house: “La Neuville-sur-Essonne.” And here is a photograph of Charley, Jim and Kate, in the French village where we were "from":
Our daughter adapted from the first (she was so young!) except when she developed a fever, in Tanneron, a small town at the peak of a hill above the Mediterranean. We took her to a doctor, gave her baths … only children’s Tylenol from the States brought down her fever. And the next day she was happily eating the tiny wild strawberries (fraises des bois) carried upstairs by our landlady.
We would enjoy six more summers in France (we went as often as we could afford to) in rented houses, and spent one sabbatical of eight months there before we moved, definitivement (for good!), to France. In the meantime, we brought back pillow cases, battered restaurant silverware from flea markets (always held together with slim pink ribbons), postcards, menus and recipes from one-star hotel dinners, the odd wooden tool for my father, the plastic bags shaped to hold exactly two baguettes... We had very little money in those days, but we felt rich, and we felt lucky:
We had exported so many little pieces of things, and memories, and phrases (we knew that a point du jour meant "at the first light of day," for instance). And we looked forward, always, to the living-there.
It was always about belonging, making the nest. And I think it still is.